Not having the sovereignty of a full nation-state, but some international recognition, such as Observer status at the United Nations, the Palestinian Authority was created by Israeli-Palestinian peace pacts to provide basic government over the West Bank and Gaza, with at least the conceptual role of becoming the basis of a Palestinian nation should one ever be established. Its authority is limited by several factors, including the Israeli policy that it controls the borders, air, and coast of the Occupied Territories; the Israeli-governed settlements within the territories, and dissension between Palestinian groups. The Authority considers East Jerusalem within its authority, while it is the opinion of the State of Israel that Jerusalem is a single city that is part of Israel.
Its official head is Mahmoud Abbas (also known as Abu Mazen), who succeeded Yasser Arafat as leader of the Fatah party. Hamas, however, won local elections in 2005 and gained effective control of Gaza.  At the meeting of the newly elected Fatah Revolutionary Council in Ramallah, Abbas called for new elections on 25 January 2010,  but the West Bank municipal elections were cancelled. 
|Salam Fayyad||Prime Minister and Minister of Finance.|
|Riyad al-Malki||Minister of Information and Foreign Minister|
|Abdul Razzaq al-Yahia||Interior and Civil Affairs Minister|
|Ziad Abdullah al-Bandak||Minister of Local Government|
|Kamal Hasouneh||Minister of Public Works & Telecommunications & Economy|
|Fathi Abu Maghli||Health Minister|
|Khouloud Khalil D'eibes||Tourism and Women's Affairs Minister|
|Samir Abdullah||Minister of Labor|
|Lamis Al-Alami||Minister of Education and Higher Education|
|Ali Khashaan||Minister of Justice|
|Ashraf Eid al-Ajrami||Minister of Prisoners Affairs|
|Mashhour Abu Daqqa||Minister of Transport|
|Tahani Abu Daqqa||Minister of Youth and Sports|
|Ibrahim Abrash||Minister of Youth and Sports|
|Sheikh Jamal Mohammed Bawatneh||Minister of Waqf|
|Mahmoud Habbash||Minister of Agriculture and Social Affairs|
Many nations have recognized the PA as a state, although many have not, and it has an observer mission rather than a fully recognized delegation to the United Nations.
The State of Israel controls sea and air access to the areas under the Authority. Further, Israel has sponsored and protected civilian settlements in the West Bank.
Hamas, once viewed as the more radical Islamist party, is now pressed by more extreme groups. In August 2009, its security forces attacked the Ibn-Taymiyah mosque in the Gaza town of Rafah, killing a number of members of an insurgent Islamic sect called Jund Ansar Allah (JAA), along with the group's leader, Abdel-Latif Moussa. "Hamas had accused the group of bombing Internet cafés, music stores, foreign schools, and weddings -- allegations the group denied. In turn, JAA complained that Hamas had persecuted its members, confiscated money and equipment worth $120,000, and even tried to kidnap its Syrian military commander, Abu Abdallah al-Muhajir. At the mosque, Moussa and his followers refused to surrender to the Hamas forces gathered outside, and ensuing fighting left 22 dead. Hamas, which had presented itself as an Islamist alternative to Fatah, has had difficulty in maintaining its religious image, and has been more aggressive than Fatah in suppressing challenges. Increasingly subject to the same criticisms it had offered when opposition, it was challenged by Salafist organizations including al-Qaeda when, after taking control of Gaza, it declined to impose sharia law. JAA apparently triggered armed response when it announced it was establishing an Islamic emirate in Gaza, and put out a call for Palestinian to come to its mosque, armed.
Hamas lost international support and faced local opposition when it approved some Islamic law, but lost credibility as well when the tight Israeli border controls continued and settlements were not evacuated.
- "Big Hamas win in Gaza's election", BBC News, 28 July 2005
- President Abbas to set elections for 25 January, Palestinian National Authority Ministry of Information, 18 October 2009
- Mustafa Barghouthi (21 July 2010), "The Slow Death of Palestinian Democracy", Foreign Policy
- Barak Mendelsohn (9 September 2009), Hamas and Its Discontents: The Battle Over Islamic Rule in Gaza, Council on Foreign Relations